May 19. 2024. 1:28

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Nicola Sturgeon resigns as Scotland’s first minister after eight years in job

Nicola Sturgeon is to resign as Scotland’s first minister after eight years in the job.

Ms Sturgeon told a news conference in Edinburgh that she would remain leader of Scotland’s devolved government until a successor is found.

She said the decision was not linked to recent short-term issues, and she had been wrestling with the decision for weeks. She said she would not give an opinion on who she wanted to succeed her as Scottish National Party (SNP) leader.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Ms Sturgeon following her decision to stand down as first minister.

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Nicola Sturgeon resigns as Scotland’s first minister after eight years in job

Nicola Sturgeon resigns as Scotland’s first minister after eight years in job

‘A friend of Ireland’: Departing Nicola Sturgeon praised by Irish politicians

‘A friend of Ireland’: Departing Nicola Sturgeon praised by Irish politicians

[ ‘A friend of Ireland’: Departing Nicola Sturgeon praised by Irish politicians ]

He said: “I had the pleasure to work with Nicola through the British Irish Council and met her on a number of occasions.

“I also welcomed her to Government Buildings in Ireland during my first tenure as Taoiseach.

“I always found Nicola a very warm person, articulate and thoughtful, and a very capable politician, who showed huge commitment to her country. She was also a true European. I wish Nicola and her family the very best for the future.”

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she is to resign from her role, saying the "time is now." Video: Reuters

Speaking on Wednesday morning Ms Sturgeon said that she knows the “time is now” for her to stand down as Scotland’s first minister.

The longest serving – and first female – first minister said from her residence at Bute House in Edinburgh that she will remain in office while the SNP select her successor.

“Since my very first moments in the job I have believed a part of serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right to make way for someone else,” she said.

“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now. That it’s right for me, for my party and my country.”

The SNP leader said she knew there were some people who would “feel upset by this decision”.

She added: “And of course for balance there will be some who, how can I put this, will cope with the news just fine, such is the beauty of democracy.

“But to those who do feel shocked or disappointed, or perhaps even a bit angry with me, please… be in no doubt that this is really hard for me.

“My decision comes from a place of duty and of love. Tough love, perhaps, but love nevertheless for my party and above all for the country.”

Ms Sturgeon said serving as first minister of Scotland has been a “privilege beyond measure” as she announced her resignation.

She said: “I am proud to stand here as the first female and longest serving incumbent of this office and I am very proud of what has been achieved in the years I’ve been blessed to do this”.

.@NicolaSturgeon: "To the people of Scotland — whether you voted for me or not — please know that being your First Minister has been the privilege of my life.

Absolutely nothing I do in future will ever come close. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." https://t.co/OkgXIsX9rp

— The SNP (@theSNP) February 15, 2023

Independence

Although she said she would not be leaving politics, Ms Sturgeon said her resignation as Scotland’s first minister “frees the SNP” on the issue of Scottish independence “to choose the path it believes to be the right one without worrying about the perceived implications for my leadership”.

She added: “The longer any leader is in office, the more opinions about them become fixed and very hard to change, and that matters.

“Individual polls come and go, but I am firmly of the view that there is now majority support for independence in Scotland.

“But that support needs to be solidified and it needs to grow further if our independent Scotland is to have the best possible foundation.

“To achieve that, we must reach across the divide in Scottish politics and my judgment now is that a new leader would be better able to do this.

She said “I intend to be there” when Scottish independence is won”.

“Winning independence is the cause I have dedicated a lifetime to. It is a cause I believe in with every fibre of my being. And it is a cause I am convinced as being won.”

Pandemic

Ms Sturgeon said leading Scotland through the pandemic is “by far the toughest thing I’ve done”, adding the weight of responsibility was “immense”.

“It’s only very recently I think that I’ve started to comprehend, let alone process, the physical and mental impact of it on me.”

She went on: “If the only question was ‘can I battle on for another few months?’, then the answer is yes, of course I can.

“But if the question is, ‘can I give this job everything it demands and deserves for another year, let alone for the remainder of this parliamentary term – give it every ounce of energy that it needs in the way that I have strived to do every day for the past eight years?’ – the answer honestly is different.

Ms Sturgeon indicated she will continue on the backbenches as an Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) at Holyrood.

She said in Scotland there are now “stronger protections for victims of domestic abuse, and parliament will soon consider legislation to improve access to justice for victims of rape and sexual offences”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “I will be the strongest possible advocate for these reforms from the backbenches.”

She concluded her resignation speech, saying: “So to the people of Scotland, to all of the people of Scotland, whether you’ve voted for me or not, please know that being your first minister has been the privilege of my life. Nothing, absolutely nothing I do in future will ever come anywhere close. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.”

BBC chief political correspondent Nick Eardley earlier reported a source close to Ms Sturgeon saying: “She’s had enough.”

Ms Sturgeon became the leader of the ruling SNP in the wake of its 2014 independence referendum when the country voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain as part of the United Kingdom.

She had recently become embroiled in a row over transgender policies after Scotland passed a Gender Recognition Reform Bill, making it easier for people to change their legal gender.

SNP president Michael Russell thanked Ms Sturgeon for her “extraordinary and brilliant leadership” after she announced her resignation.

“As President of (The SNP) I thank (Ms Sturgeon) for her extraordinary and brilliant leadership of her party and country,” he tweeted.

“As a friend for 30 years I wish her all the best and look forward to her continuing huge contribution to our national wellbeing and success.”

More to follow — PA/Reuters